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The Importance of Demonstrating the Impacts of Rural Business Programs

By Bruce Nuzum, 2018 NREDA Presdient

I am sure you know by now that Trump's proposed Federal budget for 2019 has once again drastically cut or zeroed out most, if not all, of the business assistance programs that we rely on in rural America—including funding for everything from the Small Business Administration (SBA) to USDA Rural Development. While coverage in the press has indicated that neither Republicans or Democrats are in agreement with the assumptions in the budget or the proposed cuts to rural programs, the Trump administration continues to incorrectly assert that rural business programs do not provide an adequate return when compared to the cost to the programs.  

NREDA members know that it takes a variety of financial tools to facilitate the projects that bring jobs and private investment to our rural areas. Just like you, I have seen first-hand the impacts of programs like USDA RD's Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDL&G) and Business & Industry Guarantee programs as well as SBA's 504 and 7a Guarantee, just to name a few. But here's the point: it is not enough for us to know the positive impacts of these programs. If we as rural economic developers believe in the importance of these programs and the return they provide to rural America, we must tell the story about the results they accomplish in our rural communities. Otherwise, the only public message is the one with the incorrect assertions.   

As many of you know, I spend a large portion of my day working with USDA RD's REDL&G program and helping IADG's members administer the revolving loan funds (RLFs) which the program creates. As part of that, we track and tabulate the impacts the REDL&G program has in Iowa—both the original awards and the on-going impacts of the RLFs we administer. The historic returns are impressive in terms of both job creation and private investment leverage. For example, last year alone Iowa's RLFs leveraged $20 of private investment for every $1 that we loaned. I expect that your efforts and the rural business programs that you utilize have provided equally impressive results in your region and you would like that to continue. So if you are not already doing so, I encourage you to tabulate those outcomes and share your stories with Legislators and the public at large regarding the importance of rural business programs, the economic benefits and return they provide as well as the need for continued funding for rural America.

Perdue Announces USDA's Farm Bill and Legislative Principles for 2018

(Mifflintown, PA, January 24, 2018) - U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Bill and Legislative Principles for 2018 during a town hall at Reinford Farms in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania.

"Since my first day as the Secretary of Agriculture, I've traveled to 30 states, listening to the people of American agriculture about what is working and what is not. The conversations we had and the people we came across helped us craft USDA's Farm Bill and Legislative Principles for 2018," said Secretary Perdue. "These principles will be used as a road map - they are our way of letting Congress know what we've heard from the hard-working men and women of American agriculture. While we understand it's the legislature's job to write the Farm Bill, USDA will be right there providing whatever counsel Congress may request or require."

USDA's 2018 Farm Bill and Legislative Principles:

  • Provide a farm safety net that helps American farmers weather times of economic stress without distorting markets or increasing shallow loss payments.
  • Promote a variety of innovative crop insurance products and changes, enabling farmers to make sound production decisions and to manage operational risk.
  • Encourage entry into farming through increased access to land and capital for young, beginning, veteran and underrepresented farmers.
  • Ensure that voluntary conservation programs balance farm productivity with conservation benefits so the most fertile and productive lands remain in production while land retired for conservation purposes favors more environmentally sensitive acres.
  • Support conservation programs that ensure cost-effective financial assistance for improved soil health, water and air quality and other natural resource benefits.

  • Improve U.S. market competitiveness by expanding investments, strengthening accountability of export promotion programs, and incentivizing stronger financial partnerships.
  • Ensure the Farm Bill is consistent with U.S. international trade laws and obligations.
  • Open foreign markets by increasing USDA expertise in scientific and technical areas to more effectively monitor foreign practices that impede U.S. agricultural exports and engage with foreign partners to address them.

  • Harness America's agricultural abundance to support nutrition assistance for those truly in need.
  • Support work as the pathway to self-sufficiency, well-being, and economic mobility for individuals and families receiving supplemental nutrition assistance.
  • Strengthen the integrity and efficiency of food and nutrition programs to better serve our participants and protect American taxpayers by reducing waste, fraud and abuse through shared data, innovation, and technology modernization.
  • Encourage state and local innovations in training, case management, and program design that promote self-sufficiency and achieve long-term, stability in employment.
  • Assure the scientific integrity of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans process through greater transparency and reliance on the most robust body of scientific evidence.
  • Support nutrition policies and programs that are science based and data driven with clear and measurable outcomes for policies and programs.

  • Enhance our partnerships and the scientific tools necessary to prevent, mitigate, and where appropriate, eradicate harmful plant and animal pests and diseases impacting agriculture.
  • Safeguard our domestic food supply and protect animal health through modernization of the tools necessary to bolster biosecurity, prevention, surveillance, emergency response, and border security.
  • Protect the integrity of the USDA organic certified seal and deliver efficient, effective oversight of organic production practices to ensure organic products meet consistent standards for all producers, domestic and foreign.
  • Ensure USDA is positioned appropriately to review production technologies if scientifically required to ensure safety, while reducing regulatory burdens.
  • Foster market and growth opportunities for specialty crop growers while reducing regulatory burdens that limit their ability to be successful.

  • Protect public health and prevent foodborne illness by committing the necessary resources to ensure the highest standards of inspection, with the most modern tools and scientific methods available.
  • Support and enhance FSIS programs to ensure efficient regulation and the safety of meat, poultry and processed egg products, including improved coordination and clarity on execution of food safety responsibilities.
  • Continue to focus USDA resources on products and processes that pose the greatest public health risk.

  • Commit to a public research agenda that places the United States at the forefront of food and agriculture scientific development.
  • Develop an impact evaluation approach, including the use of industry panels, to align research priorities to invest in high priority innovation, technology, and education networks.
  • Empower public-private partnerships to leverage federal dollars, increase capacity, and investments in infrastructure for modern food and agricultural science.
  • Prioritize investments in education, training and the development of human capital to ensure a workforce capable of meeting the growing demands of food and agriculture science.
  • Develop and apply integrated advancement in technology needed to feed a growing and hungry world.

  • Create consistency and flexibility in programs that will foster collaboration and assist communities in creating a quality of life that attracts and retains the next generation.
  • Expand and enhance the effectiveness of tools available to further connect rural American communities, homes, farms, businesses, first responders, educational facilities, and healthcare facilities to reliable and affordable high-speed internet services.
  • Partner with states and local communities to invest in infrastructure to support rural prosperity, innovation and entrepreneurial activity.
  • Provide the resources and tools that foster greater integration among programs, partners and the rural development customer.

  • Make America's forests work again through proactive cost-effective management based on data and sound science.
  • Expand Good Neighbor Authority and increase coordination with states to promote job creation and improve forest health through shared stewardship and stakeholder input.
  • Reduce litigative risk and regulatory impediments to timely environmental review, sound harvesting, fire management and habitat protection to improve forest health while providing jobs and prosperity to rural communities.
  • Offer the tools and resources that incentivize private stewardship and retention of forest land.

  • Provide a fiscally responsible Farm Bill that reflects the Administration's budget goals.
  • Enhance customer service and compliance by reducing regulatory burdens on USDA customers.
  • Modernize internal and external IT solutions to support the delivery of efficient, effective service to USDA customers.
  • Provide USDA full authority to responsibly manage properties and facilities under its jurisdiction.
  • Increase the effectiveness of tools and resources necessary to attract and retain a strong USDA workforce that reflects the citizens we serve.
  • Recognize the unique labor needs of agriculture and leverage USDA's expertise to allow the Department to play an integral role in developing workforce policy to ensure farmers have access to a legal and stable workforce.
  • Grow and intensify program availability to increase opportunities for new, beginning, veteran, and underrepresented producers.

NREDA Leadership Award

A delegation of over 100 members of National Rural Economic Developers Association (NREDA) attended the Association's annual conference in San Antonia, TX, at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel. Honored at the NREDA Awards Luncheon was Charlie Walker, President & CO, Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation and Dennis Mingyar, Director of Economic Development, Ohio's Electric Cooperatives as the "2017 NREDA Rural Economic Development Leadership Award" recipients. Honored for the "2017 NREDA Organization Excellence Award" was Kossuth/Palo Alto County Economic Development Corporation (K/PAEDC), Algona, Iowa and South Carolina Power Team, Columbia, South Carolina. The President's Awards for 2017 went to Mary McLaury, formerly with Touchstone Energy Cooperatives and Trista Fugate, Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Inc. (PEC). Congratulations to all these award winners!

Membership Renewal Time

The National Rural Economic Developers Association is a member organization dedicated to the advancement of rural economic development through providing education and networking opportunities. NREDA is the leading professional development resource for rural America. You will be receiving another dues notice by mail later this week - please return with your payment to ensure you maintain the connections you need to do your job! Contact Kelly Kipping (515) 334-1074 or to pay by credit card or get more information. If you need another invoice for dues, please contact NREDA Headquarters at or call (515) 284-1421.

Apply for a NREDA Scholarship to Continue Your Professional Development

Recognizing the importance of education and training, especially to new economic developers, National Rural Economic Developers Association (NREDA) offers a number of scholarship opportunities to its members. The maximum scholarship available is $750 per event. The lifetime maximum amount of scholarship funds available to any one member is an aggregate of $1,500. There are two application periods based on when the educational event is being held and the availability of funds - January 1 thru June 30 and July 1 to December 31.

Funding priority will be given to assist members new to the profession and/or members whose development organizations cannot provide total funding. The number of scholarships awarded shall be determined yearly by the Board of Directors, through their planning and budgeting process. Basic Economic Development Courses accredited by International Economic Development Council (IEDC) and IEDC education courses, the Economic Development Institute (EDI), National Development Council's (NDC) professional certification programs and professional development courses, and Business Retention Expansion International (BREI) courses. Additional courses and programs will be considered for eligibility on a case-by-case basis. Log on for more information.

Why Rural Towns Get Left Behind, and What We Can (Should) Do About It

Permission to republish. (April 1, 2017). HatchLab Baker. LinkedIn Pulse.

If it doesn't make someone a lot of money, it's just not worth doing.

That's the general response to just about everything, from helping a company raise money, to offering legal services, to brokering business buy-outs when someone needs to retire. There are many important middlemen who grease the wheels of an economy, helping provide unique expertise. When a place is small, and business isn't always brisk, this expertise is often missing. These services are as essential in rural towns as urban ones, so what (and who) picks up the slack when a service would make all the difference to success but simply doesn't exist?

YES! Magazine just put out its April 2017 issue, and it contains an interesting article about a service headquartered in Kansas, called RedTire. It helps ensure that businesses in need of a new owner don't go out of business, by assisting with finding and settling in a new owner. Their tagline is great: "Retiring and aspiring business owners can apply today."

In Concordia, Kansas, population 5,000, they made sure the local pharmacy stayed open, a huge boon to a tiny town that has relied on that business for the last 40 years.

"RedTire has nothing to do with tires; instead, the name is short for the phrase "Redefine Your Retirement." The staff do everything from appraising the business to vetting the buyer, and even offer counsel after the deal is done."

So, how do they do it when other for-profit businesses can't or won't? As always in rural towns, it takes a village, or, a creative partnership where people wear a variety of hats.

Turns out the University of Kansas hosts (and essentially underwrites) the RedTire program. The program's success is built around the involvement of business students who staff the service. They get paid as they learn in a real world setting, while making a real difference in their community. Brilliant!

The kicker? The program does not charge for its services. This has caused folks interested in replication to turn away. I say, phooey on them. They don't get it.

I run a nonprofit program called Hatch Oregon that helps entrepreneurs raise money using a new "crowd-investing" law in Oregon. It's a new model of raising capital from your community, and has the power to transform the inequitable financial system. Turns out that many of our clients are in rural communities, outside urban Portland. Frankly, most of Oregon is rural. And guess what, they haven't got much money.

The USDA provided us with a grant a few years back, to offer our program in rural Joseph (5,000) and Baker City (10,000) in rural NE Oregon. We did train the regional economic development district staff (funded by state, federal, and foundation dollars), but no one else in town was beating down our doors to learn how to provide the same service as a business. When servicing small business and rural communities, there's just not much money in it. So what are rural town leaders supposed to do?

For the most part, they do without. Right now (early April), I happen to be working in a small town in Scotland (pop. barely 3,000). Yesterday, I picked up the local paper in the cafe/craft/bakery shop. The leading cover article was about the Royal Bank of Scotland pulling the plug on over 20 banks in small towns all over Scotland. This coastal area of Fife alone will lose six of their branches on high streets up and down the coast. Town leaders and citizens are "angry and dismayed". While the reason sound plausible (400% increase in online and mobile banking) there's an entire generation of folks who don't trust the internet with their money, and local tourism depends on a local bank. What will these folks do? Who cares?

Decision-making based on how much money an entity can make is an increasingly dangerous one. Whether it's fiduciary duty to shareholders (which has been called into question recently) or just a regional firm with their heads in the numbers and their hearts in the freezer, it's a slippery slope to reduce every decision to a quantitative data point. It also implies the decision-makers won't feel the effects. These days, it's harder and harder to avoid the fallout. What we do to others we do to ourselves, in very important ways. Taken together, this profit-over-people mindset of making decisions, especially effecting people in small places, feels like a social and economic catastrophe waiting to happen.

I believe we've got to do what Kansas did, and reach across silos to create mutually beneficial partnerships with all kinds of unusual suspects. Universities, community colleges, nonprofits, hospitals, libraries, corporations, tourist organizations, and government agencies should begin to look at themselves as community catalysts in new ways.

Perhaps every town needs a "Community Collaboration Coordinator" who is paid by a bit from each entity (now there's an idea). This person is given the time and authority to identify, troubleshoot, and suggest solutions with the aim of creative collaborations and mutual benefit. Rather like a regional solution "ombudsman".

I rather fancy this idea, I think it's "brilliant" (as they say here). What else should we be doing in rural communities?

Amy Pearl is the Executive Director of Hatch Innovation and runs a co-working space and accelerator in both Portland and Baker City, Oregon. Hatch Innovation also helped craft Oregon's crowd investing law which helps increase access to capital for small businesses. HatchLab Baker is part of a new Oregon initiative called Rural Opportunity Network, or ROI.

Membership in NREDA Provides Key Networking Opportunities

NREDA's approximately 350 individual members are a virtual Who's Who of electric, telephone cooperatives, local economic development organizations, key 'sister' associations, consultants and rural government related organizations. Members take pride in their willingness to share expertise and information with peers. Take advantage of mentoring opportunities through the ED411 program; search the directory for areas of expertise, attend NREDA events and meet the folks who do what you do, join a committee and get to know others in the rural economic development field.

NREDA Membership Breakout

NREDA's Grassroots Advocacy Issues Paper

The Grassroots Advocacy Committee is responsible for monitoring federal legislation that may have an impact on economic development in rural America. This monitoring will include developing and maintaining relationships with the legislative staffs of affiliated organizations such as NTCA, NRTC, NRECA, NADO and CFC.

The Committee keeps the Board apprised of legislation and has developed an issues paper that defines key areas of recognition or support for rural development. Download the full 2017-18 NREDA Grassroots Advocacy Issues Paper to learn more.

The committee co-chairs are Shawn Rennecker and Nikki Pfannenstiel with committee members including: RaSarah Browder, Brad Captain, Lee Chapman, Rand Fisher, Tony Floyd, Lisa Franklin, John Greene, Clare Gustin, Diana Hersch, Christy Hopkins, Paul Mantz, Loren Medley, Cy Murray, JD Wallace.

Bylaws Changes and Member Incentive Program

NREDA Members: In February of 2015, the NREDA board initiated a pilot program to increase NREDA's membership which targets regional economic development groups. This goal of this "limited affiliate" membership is to give regional economic development groups exposure to NREDA and the ability to participate in our events. The board expects that once people see the value of NREDA, we will be able to convert them to full members of our organization.
The pilot program has been successful and membership has grown as a result. Enough so, the board proposes to make the category of Limited Affiliate Member a permanent part of the NREDA membership structure. To do that, NREDA bylaws must be changed to reflect this new membership category. We would also offer that as part of the overall bylaw review process, the board is also proposing a few minor edits to reflect actual board practices and procedures.
Attached for your review are the proposed bylaws. They are presented in a red-line format to make review easier. We have also included an outline of the various membership programs as background information.
The proposed bylaws were presented and approved at the NREDA Annual Meeting for adoption by the membership. Presented by NREDA Bylaws Committee: Dan Boysel, Bruce Nuzum & Nikki Pfannenstiel

IEDC Publication Available: A New Standard: Achieving Data Excellence in Economic Development

Plain and simple, data drives decision-making in business and beyond. How well are you incorporating data into your daily business functions, and how easy is it for data users such as site selectors to get quality, accurate, and timeline data from you?

Aside from traditional federal data sources, such as the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Census Bureau, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, do you know the many other ways to access critical sets of data? A New Standard: Achieving Data Excellence in Economic Development, a recently published EDRP Report, is now available to IEDC member. The comprehensive report explains how economic developers can use new sources of information and analytic tools to present the quality data that corporate decision-makers expect, while addressing gaps in data that can hinder business attraction efforts.

Economic Development Research Partners Program is an exclusive membership level of IEDC, which supports practice-oriented research. The publications developed under EDRP's guidance and sponsorship are designed to increase the knowledge base of the economic development profession and help practitioners navigate through today's rapidly changing economy. Non-IEDC members may purchase the publications. Click here to learn more.

NREDA's 2016-2017 Grassroots Advocacy Issues Paper

The Grassroots Advocacy Committee is responsible for monitoring federal legislation that may have an impact on economic development in rural America. The Committee will keep the Board apprised of this legislation. This monitoring will include developing and maintaining relationships with the legislative staffs of affiliated organizations such as NTCA, NRTC, NRECA, NADO and CFC.

The Committee keeps the Board apprised of legislation and has developed an issues paper that defines key areas o recognition or support for rural development. Download the full 2016-17 NREDA Grassroots Advocacy Issues Paper to learn more.

Additionally, several years ago, the committee put together a user-friendly, how-to guide entitled, How to be a Legislative Advocate, which takes what can be an intimidating process and breakes it down for you step by step. We hope you find it a useful tool.

The committee chair is Shawn Rennecker and committee members include: Clare Gustin, Tony Floyd, RaSarah Browder, Lisa Franklin, Cy Murray, Loren Medley, Russell Laird, Diana Hersch, Lee Chapman, Ian Kaiser, Christy Hopkins, Paul Mantz, and Rand Fisher.

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